Celebrating 15 Years – Lessons on Leadership

blog Apr 07, 2021

Recently I was reflecting on the fact that it has been 15 years since I quit my stable, well paid, leadership position with a multi national organisation to, within 7 days, set up my own business, and the journey of The Footprint Group took it’s first step into the world.

 

Whilst I certainly don’t think the way I decided to go about this entrepreneurial journey is a text book example of solid business planning, it was the only way for me. I was youngish, impulsive, stubborn and had been dreaming of doing this for the longest time. Why hadn’t I done it before? The usual story – the people around me thought it was risky, uncertain, crazy, against the grain.

 

But in a period of 3 days where the timing was like a perfect storm to make this decision a no brainer.

 

So I resign, spend the week of my notice period setting up business names, company structures, getting logo’s designed, preparing a full policies and procedures document, finding and leasing offices – and 7 days later I was off and running!

 

Now as I said, this is certainly not a lesson on how to plan and launch a business – what I did would make most business coaches and mentors cry – but what I can tell you is that the last 15 years has been a journey of learning, and some of those lessons might just save you the heartache and headache of learning these things the hard way yourself.

 

So here are 5 lessons on leadership that have shaped my journey in the last 15 years.

 

Lesson 1: You Can’t Hide
No matter what’s going on personally or in the business, no matter how you’re feeling – you need to show up for your people, in all the ways that they need you.

 

For those of us who are introverts, or sit slightly more towards being an introvert than extrovert, this can be tough, but you must find a way to make it possible. Whether it be being brave, summoning the confidence, energy and courage to be there for your team – for what they need, not for what you need from them.

 

Lesson 2: You Need Courage
Walt Disney said “Courage is the main quality of leadership, in my opinion no matter where it is exercised.”

 

Let’s face it, leadership is hard! If someone tells you otherwise they are lying. Leadership is not knowing that you’ll never be uncertain, or fearful, or that you’ll never fail, it’s the courage to continue and to keep going that counts.

 

Angela Duckworth talks about the concept of Grit in her research, and explains how grit determines an individuals success, it’s a sense of ‘stick to it ness’ – to me grit is essential in leadership, often above anything else.

 

Lesson 3: Don’t Pretend
What I mean by this is don’t pretend to know the answer, or have everything together when you don’t – and sometimes you won’t have it all together, even when you think no one is noticing. Your team will see straight through it, they may not tell you, but they will see it. This leads you to lose respect and then no one benefits – you’re not gaining anything and neither are your team.

 

Lesson 4: Communication is King
You may already know this, if you’ve heard my podcast or have dealt with me before – but I’m a bit of a Simon Sinek super fan – the way he thinks about the world of work and leadership is something that really resonates with me. He says "great leaders communicate and great communicators lead." To Sinek, leadership and exceptional communication are so intrinsically tied that it’s a foundation of good leadership.

 

Your team want to know what’s happening - even when you’re not sure. There will absolutely be times when you don’t have all the answers but a failure to effectively communicate is a failure to lead.

 

Be clear, be concise, communicate in ways that your team will hear, and this might mean communicating in different ways for different people.

 

Fundamentally as well, communication is not just about you talking, it’s a 2 way street. It’s not always what you say that matters most, it’s about consistency and it can be how you say it that matters most , there is power in whispering.

 

Lesson 5: Your People Come First
There is a famous quote by Steven Dovey that a client, and an amazing leader, shared with me once, which is “seek first to understand”. When George shared this with me he had just been placed in charge of a large team that was undergoing massive change. They had experienced and international company merger, grown significantly and seen their workplace change and shift track significantly in the years prior – but leadership was not strong, George was brought in to help get things back on track – he had a big job ahead of him and many difficult conversations to have, but he calmy and with certainty led his team through this period of change.

 

Even if you know what the answer or outcome is, listen, seek first to understand.

Your job as a leader of people is to identify talents, strengths and opportunities, and create an environment where they can flourish. Your job is to put your people first, create an environment where your team feel safe, where they can stretch themselves and dare to step into being the best version of themselves as an employee that they can be.

 

Now, in the last 15 years I have of course learnt about a lot more than just leadership, so this is Part 1 of a 3 part series. In future articles I look forward to sharing my top lessons on teams as well as the juggle of entrepreneurialism with real life.

 

An invitation:

If you’d like to connect with other business owners, leaders and managers in a group focused on all things HR, people and team management we’d love for you to join us over on our free Facebook Group – HR Support for Australian Businesses.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/hrsupportaustralia

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